9 Things You Can Negotiate When Buying A House (other than price)

08/06/2017 03:18 am ET
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Photographer: Matt Jones

Negotiating when buying a house is standard convention: you see a listing price and you know that you’re free to submit an offer that is more, less than, or equal to the price the seller set. Sounds pretty basic and straightforward, right?

That’s what we thought. But once we got into the details of making an offer that was right for us, we learned that there is so much more than you can negotiate for, other than price. These items can save you thousands of dollars, or better yet, save you from the disappointment of buying the wrong home.

Here are 9 things you can negotiate for when you’re buying a house:

Length of time to close

Most sellers are eager to close. They’ve been going through the process of selling their home for months by prepping it for sale and letting strangers walk through their bedroom on the weekend. For some sellers, a fast close can be a major bonus point. Do they really want the escrow process to go on for 45-60 days when it can be done in 30? Adding in a quick closing can help nudge a seller to accept your offer.

However, you want to be sure that the close timeline you’re offering is long enough for you to get through your contingencies: can you get inspections and your financing worked out in that timeframe?

Contingencies

When we first made an offer, we stuck to standard contingencies: financing, appraisal, and general inspection. We didn’t really pay much attention to this, because we thought it was standard and we didn’t know there was room to negotiate. When you’re writing your offer you have room to include (or not include) the contingencies that you want.

Not only do these contingencies give you time to examine that this house is a good purchase, they also give you leverage if you want to negotiate repairs during the closing process. We were thorough with the contingencies and inspections we included, which ended up giving us negotiating leverage after the offer was accepted, but before we closed. This also helped us walk away from a house that could have been a disaster of a purchase when the seller wouldn’t accept a contingency on a foundation inspection (hello, warning sign).

Time Frame For Inspections

No seller wants a buyer to drag their feet, and no buyer wants to feel insane pressure to complete thorough inspections. The actual time frame for inspections to occur can be a point that is negotiable during the process. If you know that the seller wants to close quickly, including a tight time frame for inspections (and the subsequent removal of related contingencies) can help sway the seller to accept your offer.

On the flip, if you’re nervous about an unknown with the property, giving yourself adequate time to get an inspection and remove related contingencies can give you the time you need to make sure you’re making the best decision.

Appliances

Depending on what’s normal for your market, not all the appliances found in the home will be included in the sale (such as the washer/dryer). Before making your offer you can clarify which of the appliances (if any) are included and when making your offer negotiate to have certain appliances included in the purchase.

Don’t want any of the appliances? You can also negotiate to have them removed from the property. It goes both ways.

Warranty

A warranty is a protection plan on the home’s appliances and systems, such as the HVAC system, plumbing, or hot water heater. In the event these things break or need repair within the warranty time frame, the repair would be covered by the warranty. A warranty can be offered by the seller or asked for by the buyer.

Furniture

Love what you see when you tour the house? You can negotiate to buy some or all of the furniture the seller has in their home. If the seller has taken time to decorate well or some of the spaces are uniquely sized (which can make finding furniture an issue), make an offer on the pieces of furniture that you’d love to keep.

Repairs

Repairs are one of the biggest places that you’ll find room to negotiate both as you’re making an offer and before you close, once inspections have been completed. If the home requires significant amount of work to bring it up to today’s standards, you can ask for repairs when making the offer. If problems are discovered during inspections, you can negotiate to have them fixed or get a price reduction to cover the cost of the work which will need to be done after closing. Negotiating repairs on our retaining wall and chimney saved us thousands of dollars.

Note that if the seller states that a home is sold “as-is”, they are indicating early that they will not be willing to make any repairs that might be needed.

Leaseback

Offering a leaseback can be a huge incentive to a seller, who isn’t quite ready to leave their house once the sale takes place. They may be waiting to purchase a home or they may need a few weeks before their next purchase closes. Offering them an opportunity to rent the home for a short amount of time (either at zero cost or an agreed upon rate), may be a huge benefit for them. Just be sure to have a formal rental agreement in writing.

Closing costs

Closing costs usually catch first time home buyers off guard, as they learn they’ll need to have additional cash available to close on the loan, aside from the down payment. But closing costs are another piece of the offer than can potentially be negotiated. Closing costs can be negotiated with the seller (mainly in a buyer’s market) or directly with your lender.

Want more unbiased home buying information from first time home buyers who know exactly what you’re going through? Visit The Big Purchase for our ultimate house hunting guide.

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